Tacos and pasta collide in this easy one-pot recipe for Taco Pasta! Made with ground beef, tender pasta, and a creamy, cheesy taco sauce, this 30-minute pasta dinner is everything you desire in a simple family meal.
Pasta and tacos are staple dinner recipes. And when the two are combined together in a creamy, cheesy, hearty one-pot meal---well, I am in love! And I bet you will love this simple recipe as well!
Why You Will Love Taco Pasta
- One-Pot, 30-Mintue Meal. Just like Homemade Hamburger Helper, this entire pasta dinner cooks in the same skillet, including the noodles, in under 30 minutes. The noodles absorb the taco-flavored sauce as they cook, infusing them with irresistible flavor.
- Irresistible Flavor. Made with ground beef, salsa, noodles, taco seasoning, and cheese, this pasta dish has all the flavors of traditional tacos in a simple pasta dinner.
- Adaptable. This Taco Pasta is both appealing and adaptable. You can make it with or without meat. Use hot or mild salsa. And of course, it lends itself to being topped with any and all traditional taco toppings.
- Picky-eater approved. There is nothing for picky eaters to turn their noses up to! It is made with familiar ingredients and cheesy goodness.
Notes on Ingredients
- Ground Beef: I prefer using lean ground beef for this recipe, but ground chicken or ground turkey can be used in place of the beef.
- Taco Seasoning: Use homemade taco seasoning to control the sodium and additives, or your favorite brand of storebought taco seasoning.
- Tomato Sauce: Use canned plain tomato sauce, not spaghetti sauce.
- Salsa: Salsa is a great short-cut ingredient. It already has diced onions, peppers, and seasons, and helps to flavor up this pasta perfectly without the need to add several ingredients. Use your favorite jarred or homemade salsa but be sure to pay attention to the spice level. You don't want to use hot salsa when feeding small children.
- Pasta: You want to choose whole wheat or regular pasta that will cling to the meat and sauce, like elbow noodles, shell pasta, or rotini noodles. I prefer elbow noodles as they cook up quickly and I always have them on hand.
- Sour Cream: The addition of sour cream will finish taco pasta with a super creamy finish. Use full-fat or reduced-fat, not fat-free sour cream, as it can easily separate.
- Cheese: What is a good taco without the addition of cheese? Shredded cheese will melt into the pasta and make this dish super cheesy and delicious. You can use cheddar, Monterrey Jack, or a Mexican cheese blend. Pro-Tip: Grate the cheese yourself, as it will melt more evenly than bagged shredded cheese.
- Toppings: While Taco Pasta is so flavorful, you don't need to add any toppings, just like tacos it only tastes better if you add your favorite toppings. Diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sliced olives, minced cilantro, pickled jalapenos, additional sour cream, cheese, or salsa are all great options.
- Make it Vegetarian. Skip the meat and add 2 to 3 cups of black or pinto beans in place of the browned meat to keep this taco pasta recipe meatless.
- Looking to cut your grocery bill? Use ½ pound of ground meat instead of a full pound. This dish will still be hearty, but you can cut back on the cost.
- Use Leftovers. If you happen to have leftover taco meat, use it in place of the browned meat and omit the taco seasoning from this recipe. You will save time making this recipe AND reinvent your leftovers into something delicious.
- Instant Pot Directions: If you have an Instant Pot, you can enjoy the same results, with less hands-on work using my recipe for Instant Pot Taco Pasta.
- Additional Add-Ins. Feel free to add frozen corn to the pasta while cooking, or stir in a 16-ounce can of drained beans when adding the cheese and sour cream.
- Make it Gluten-Free. I have used Barilla brand gluten-free elbow noodles with success. I can't recommend other gluten-free brands, as most give off too much starch as they cook.
Tips for Making One-Pot Taco Pasta
The following tips are provided to help you achieve perfect results. You will find the detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Tip #1: Use the right Pan. Be sure to use a large enough skillet that can brown the meat and fit the pasta and liquid. I find a nice deep dutch or large stock pan works best for making taco pasta.
Tip #2: Brown the meat first. If you are adding ground meat to this taco pasta, you want to saute the meat until it is fully browned, breaking it up as it cooks. This will allow the meat to develop flavor and allow you the ability to drain off excess grease, preventing your pasta from having a greasy dish.
Tip #3: Don't overcook the pasta. The pasta will simmer with taco seasoning, salsa, tomato sauce and broth, absorbing the flavor as it becomes tender. Continue to stir the pasta occassionally, and once the noodles are al dente, remove the skillet from the heat. This will prevent mushy noodles.
Tip #4: Add cheese and sour cream. To make this taco pasta ridiculously creamy and cheesy, add in both sour cream and shredded cheese. This will take this dish over the top!
Tip #5: Add your favorite toppings. Serve this cheesy taco pasta plain or top with diced tomatoes, onions, sour cream, and avocados, etc. Anything you like on your tacos!
- Storing Leftovers: Refrigerate the cooled leftover pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- Reheating Leftovers: Dish out individual servings on a heat-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat for 1-2 minutes in the microwave until warmed through. The paper towel will help to prevent the pasta from drying out.
- Freezing Leftovers: Allow the pasta to cool and then transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or container. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat in a saucepan over medium heat or in individual servings in the microwave.
More Tex-Mex Favorite Dinners
- Southwest Chicken Salad
- Instant Pot Chicken Tacos
- Ground Turkey Taco Skillet
- Vegetarian Fajitas
- Southwest Turkey Soup
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
If you enjoyed this Taco Pasta, I would love for you to leave a comment and a review below.
- In a large non-stick skillet, or dutch oven, cook the meat over medium high heat until browned, breaking up into small pieces as the meat cooks. Drain off any excess grease.
- Add in the tomato sauce, salsa, taco seasoning, elbow noodles, and 1.5 cups of water, stirring to combine.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the pasta is tender, adding up to 1 cup of water if needed. This will take about 15 minutes for the pasta to be tender.
- Once the pasta is tender, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and sour cream. Serve.